|From a master story-teller|
Edmund Campion, Australian Catholic Lives
Jesus was a storyteller. His stories related truths by describing relationships with family (The Prodigal Son), nature (the barren fig tree), authority figures (the talents, the unjust steward, and the master's dinner), and neighbors (Dives and Lazarus and the lost coin).
I can just see the crowds listening intently as he began to relate another story, nudging one another and nodding, saying, "Listen, this will be good!" And then repeating the stories at home to family and friends.
|The Left ruined Uncle Remus, one of|
the great figures of Black Culture, whose
dialect was captured by Joel Chandler
Harris. The suppression of Disney's
Song of the South was a tragedy!
When our children were young we often used car time as story time. Sometimes we took a book on tape. I still remember listening to A Bell for Adano on a long trip to the Outer Banks. The kids were just as eager as we were to turn on the story again after a stop. But most of the time it was fairy tales and Bible stories on short trips. Larry's specialties were fairy tales: Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, and Goldilocks. Mine were about real people in the Bible: Jonah and the Whale, Joseph and his Many-Colored Coat, and Job ("Tell the story about 'Joe,' Mom!").
Sometimes I made up stories like the one about the "whine-a bird" who "liked to dine on whine." I still tell that occasionally to whiny grandchildren. Once on the Metro I calmed a restless 4-year-old with the story and, when we reached our stop, the man in the seat behind us commented that he hated to see us get off before the end. That made me laugh!
The best stories are entertaining and engage us without being polemical. That is the test of good literature. The lesson needs to be organic to the story rather than preachy, or else, as Walker Percy once said, it's not a novel; it's a tract.
|Anne with an e, one of the most|
charming heroines in literature.
Stories teach. They can teach something good -- like the Lord of the Rings showing how the humble (the hobbits) can be heroes in fighting for family and homeland against evil strong men. But on the other hand stories can teach something evil -- like Fifty Shades of Grey promoting kinky BDSM sex as mainstream. (I didn't need to see it to know it was evil and would increase pornification of the culture and lead to more sex abuse.)
Read good stories or make them up and share them with your children and grandchildren. When you do, you offer them fruit for their play. Think of little boys imagining themselves as Robinson Crusoe or St. Paul shipwrecked and washed up on an island struggling against adversity. Let them imagine themselves as the fictional King Aragorn or the real Don John of Austria, the last knight of Europe as Chesterton called him, fighting battles against evil empires.
|Return of the Prodigal Son, one of the|
most famous parables of Jesus.
Leonello Spada 16th century
Give your children real and fictional heroes to emulate.
Above all, teach them to know the difference between bad stories and good stories. Purge the shelves of the Goosebumps series and Judie Bloom and give them George MacDonald (I love his Princess and Curdie stories), Walter de la Mare, (, C.S. Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Louis Stevenson (a great way to introduce your children to poetry) and Lucy Maude Montgomery (Her Anne was Mark Twain's favorite heroine). Don't let them fill their minds with the literary equivalent of bubble gum. Give children the tools to discern what is worth the investment of time that reading requires.
A love of good literature leads to a lifetime of learning. Get your kids to turn off the TV and the electronics and pick up a good book.
What are your favorite books/heroes for children?